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Friday Night viewing: Fixing Bugs in Democracy

October 26th, 2018, 8:00pm by Sam Wang


A few weeks ago, I gave a public lecture at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy. Great audience, great discussion. Learn about partisan gerrymandering and how Open Data can help level the playing field for all citizens!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Princeton · Redistricting

Optimal 2018 donations in the home stretch: Senate, House, Governor

October 26th, 2018, 11:00am by Sam Wang


Judging from my mail, I think some of you think I am back online making predictions. This is not true!

PEC provides aggregation and information to reveal where you can make the most impact. Since almost the start, my reason for operating PEC was to show how such efforts might be optimized. And as I wrote in 2016, I’m not estimating any probabilities this year – that’s why there are only Meta-Margins above. If you want probabilities, I think FiveThirtyEight does a bang-up job. There, now you know I’m serious!

Now…where to give – House, Senate, or governor? Let’s look at current conditions. [Read more →]

→ Post a commentTags: 2018 Election · governors · House · Redistricting · Senate

Why Your Vote Matters: New Jersey, Ground Zero for swing districts

October 26th, 2018, 7:00am by Sam Wang


There are swing Congressional districts all over the nation. And right here in Princeton, we have an exceptional density of close races.

Within 25 miles of Princeton are three Congressional districts in which October poll medians [NJ] [PA] show the two candidates within 1 or 2 percentage points of each other: [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House

Can Michigan terminate gerrymandering? Analysis of Proposal 2

October 25th, 2018, 9:43am by Sam Wang


The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is hitting the road! This week, members of my team are going to Michigan and California to investigate redistricting reform on the ground. We’re helping students of the Woodrow Wilson School as they evaluate best practices for how to implement an independent commission, which is on the ballot in Michigan.

Overall, it’s a great step forward for the Wolverine State. Here’s a our analysis of the proposal’s merits – and one area to keep an eye on. (Here are our detailed comments on the initiative as PDF and Word documents. Also see our analysis of Colorado Amendments Y and Z.)

[Read more →]

→ 3 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · Redistricting

Is the Senate Kavanaugh bounce partially ending?

October 24th, 2018, 3:29pm by Sam Wang


People often ask if polls move opinion. Not that many people pay direct attention to the numbers. However, polls do set the tone for what journalists and pundits write…with some delay. Combined with the time it takes to conduct and release a poll, this means that news articles can be a lagging indicator of the state of play.

Currently, political writers have noted the turn of Senate races against Democrats. This comes from several key races in Republican states – Tennessee, Texas, and North Dakota – moving toward Republicans at the same time that the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing came to a crescendo. Few of them have noticed that opinion seems to be swinging back:

Recent poll medians currently show the leaders in those states as Blackburn (R-TN) by 3%, Cruz (R-TX) by 8%, and Cramer (R-ND) by 12%. So in red states, post-Kavanaugh sentiment is partially holding. It’s unlikely that Democrats will win any of them, though I am keeping an eye on Tennessee.

Leaving those three races aside, Democrats have a narrow path to 50 seats – and split control. This would involve winning Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Nevada, all of which are within two percentage points. Home-stretch polling error in midterm elections has been as high as 4 percentage points, so it’s possible. However, if the error goes in the other direction, Democrats could go as low as 45 seats. The median result is currently 47-48 Democratic seats and 52-53 Republican seats.

Why, in the face of high disapproval for Trump and pro-Democratic national sentiment (see House data), do Democrats still face an uphill battle in the Senate? Most of you already know the reason: lots of pro-Trump states have Senate races this year. But this year’s outcome also sets the stage for 2020, when Democrats have a far more favorable playing field. Even if the Senate does not flip for 2019, control in 2021 will be highly consequential for whoever is president – and for all of us.

→ 6 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · Senate

Why Your Vote Matters: Florida

October 24th, 2018, 6:03am by Sam Wang


(Written in collaboration with Owen Engel ’21.)

In less than two weeks, Florida voters have a chance to restore the right to vote to over 1.5 million Floridians – more than 1 in 10 of the adult voting population. This is by far the largest voting-rights question in any election in the nation. Amazingly, this is thanks to a ballot initiative that is backed by both the Koch brothers and the ACLU.

In addition, the two-decade hold by Republicans on Florida state politics could finally break if rising star Andrew Gillum wins the governor’s race. Finally, Florida has a whopping seven close Congressional races, a close Senate race, and a key Attorney General race.

Read on. [Read more →]

→ Post a commentTags: 2018 Election · House · Senate

Why Your Vote Matters: North Carolina

October 21st, 2018, 1:56pm by Sam Wang


Part of a series on Key Elections Near You.

One of the most remarkable states in this year’s election is North Carolina. Thanks to a lax state constitution, more than anywhere else in the Union, partisans have had the opportunity in North Carolina to isolate government from voters in a remarkable manner. But in two weeks, voters have an opportunity to get the Tar Heel State back on track.

Voters will choose a key state Supreme Court justice and the Congressional delegation, and vote on multiple critical ballot questions. These races will affect not just Congress, but life for Carolinians for decades to come – how judges are appointed and how elections are run. I cannot think of a more essential place for people to get out the vote statewide. [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House · Redistricting

Saturday: on CNN with Smerconish, 9:30am Eastern

October 19th, 2018, 8:16pm by Sam Wang


Saturday at 9:30am Eastern on CNN, I joined @smerconish to talk about midterm elections. On my mind, a bug in democracy: this year Democrats could win the popular vote, yet still not retake the House.

P.S. We didn’t get to the part about how to repair the bugs. Basically, Democrats are overwhelmingly likely to win the national popular vote (currently hovering around an 8-point margin). But they may still not retake the House (they’re only 2 points above estimated threshold for that). If that happens, it will be because of gerrymandering. Fixing that is a state-by-state battle. Help us with that!

→ 5 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House · Redistricting

Why Your Vote Matters: Wisconsin

October 19th, 2018, 7:43am by Sam Wang


As the election draws near, I’ll write some short essays on why it’s important to vote in specific critical states. Normally at PEC we focus on House and Senate races. But there are tons of important state and local races as well. They’re collected at the PEC Key Races page.

Let’s start with Wisconsin. Wisconsin has same-day voter registration, so there’s a lot that activists can do to influence the election there. And this year, Wisconsin is especially important. [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: 2018 Election · governors · Redistricting

Triage and Refocus

October 17th, 2018, 11:43pm by Sam Wang


A curious inverse law seems to be at work. As politics gets louder and more extreme, public opinion becomes less volatile. As measured by public opinion, this trend dates to the mid-1990s, when Newt Gingrich led the charge to take control of Congress – a fateful turn in national politics. Fewer voters cross partisan lines than ever. It’s the heat death of modern politics.

This trend was apparent in 2016, especially in the home stretch. Trump stayed afloat because of partisan polarization, and therefore loyalty to him no matter what he did or said. As I wrote immediately after the election, state-by-state polling errors were largest in red states, suggesting that Republican voters came home in the final weeks of the campaign.

Looks like we’re heading down that road again, at least in the Senate.

Until Labor Day or so, Democrats looked like they had a shot at taking control of the Senate. They started with 43 Democratic/Independent seats that either were not up for election, or appeared to be likely wins (counting West Virginia’s incumbent Joe Manchin as a likely win for Democrats based on polling data). After that, the path was, starting from the largest Democratic margin, NJ / MT / IN / FL / AZ / NV / MO. That gets to 50 Democratic/Independent seats. Then they needed to win in Texas, Tennessee, or North Dakota.

This positioning eroded in September, and then fell off a cliff at the start of October as Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation battle came to a head. Considering the timing, the simplest explanation is that the Kavanaugh battle made Republican voters come home – just as they did in 2016.

Here are the medians for the most recent three polls, compared with the end of September.

You can see the pattern here. All races moved toward Republicans or stayed flat, with larger changes in the more Republican states. The change is especially apparent in Texas, Tennessee, and North Dakota – all strongly Republican states. It sure looks like McConnell and Trump succeeded in firing up their base.

In today’s snapshot, 48 Democratic/Independent seats is the median outcome, with a likely range of 44 to 50 seats. It would would take a 2.0-point swing toward Democrats to make 50 seats the median outcome. And it would take a 6.5-point swing to get them to 51. For now, it looks like the Republicans have a red wall.

What’s the bottom line for activists? It’s time to regroup. The House Meta-Margin is D+1.8%, which means that House control is very much up in the air. That’s becoming a pretty good place to put one’s energy. (find out what a Meta-Margin is)

For activists on either side who want to give money, I would recommend focusing on the closest Senate races (NV/MO/FL/AZ/IN/MT), and on close House races in those states. The close House races are NV-03, AZ-01, FL-15, FL-18, FL-26, and FL-27, where polls are within five points. Helping there will help that candidate – and also move the needle on a close Senate race. I’ve updated the donation link at left, and Republicans can still give to the NRSC.

You should not just give money. November’s election has enormous impact on the future of our democracy. You can get out the vote near you:

Turn your attention to key state-level ballot questions. State government is very important heading into the next redistricting cycle. Find a hotspot near you. Or read more in Taniel’s curated list of hot questions.

Get out the vote in a close House district near you. Volunteer for a campaign that is listed in PEC’s 2018 Competitive Congressional District Finder. Canvassing is hard work, but it brings satisfaction.

Get out there. You have less than three weeks to make a difference!

→ 6 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House · Senate